Ni­cole Asen­sio.

She with the sul­try voice that will make you want her for all time

FHM (Philippines) - - Pulse - WORDS Mikey Agulto PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Jerico Mon­temayor as­sisted by Jonathan De Je­sus and Fhel Po­coso

Leav­ing your com­fort zone and break­ing new ground, while nec­es­sary, is a con­cept that scares most artists. A fickle au­di­ence is all it takes to re­mind you of the fine line be­tween hit and flop. But once in a while, a per­former feels the need to hit the re­set but­ton in or­der to move for­ward. Step out of the shad­ows and into the spot­light, they say.

Even more so if you’ve been per­form­ing for as long as God made you, like this month’s cov­er­girl, Ni­cole Asen­sio. While it’s pos­si­ble that you’re only hear­ing her name for the first time, her body of work may not be en­tirely un­known to you. You’ve seen her face. You’ve lis­tened to her songs. Many times, in fact.

That’s her all-pow­er­ful, almighty voice you hear ev­ery time you lis­ten to a Gen­eral Luna song. The all-fe­male rock band, de­spite dis­band­ing in 2013, made such a huge mark that their Youtube chan­nel con­tin­ues to gar­ner view­ers to this day.

Many years be­fore that, she was one of Reper­tory Philip­pines’ bright young thes­pi­ans, belt­ing out songs for French mu­si­cal the­ater com­poser Claude-michel Schön­berg of Les Mis­er­ables and Miss Saigon fame. The year Gen­eral Luna came to be, she was Mimi Mar­quez in the lo­cal pro­duc­tion of RENT.

You even know of her fam­ily. Ni­cole is the daugh­ter of ‘80s singer Iwi Lau­rel, the grand­daugh­ter of famed opera singer Fides Cuyu­gan-asen­sio, the niece of the­ater ac­tor Co­coy Lau­rel, and the first cousin of fash­ion de­signer Rajo and ac­tress Denise. Her lolo and lola are for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Sal­vador Lau­rel and singer Celia Diaz Lau­rel. Her great­grand­fa­ther is no other than for­mer Pres­i­dent Jose P. Lau­rel.

Th­ese are names that are for­ever etched in our cul­ture’s his­tory, and Ni­cole is bent on carv­ing out her own. For sure, she has a lot of break­ing ground and stand­ing out to do, but the foun­da­tions have al­ready been laid out.

En­ter Schizo­prano—the 2015 al­bum that of­fi­cially launched Ni­cole as a solo artist. “My grand­mother is one of those purist clas­si­cal singers. When I did the whole rock thing, it was an is­sue be­cause she was wor­ried about me los­ing my voice. So we used the term

“schizo­prano” to re­fer to clas­si­cal singers who would dab­ble to other gen­res in terms of vo­cals,” Ni­cole says. “There were a lot of itches that I got to scratch with that al­bum. I was able to re­visit my roots, which is clas­si­cal. I tried to in­cor­po­rate my com­fort zone, which is rock. I also tried some­thing new, which is jazz. I guess what I’m try­ing to grow into is a more ver­sa­tile per­former who isn’t afraid to ex­per­i­ment, col­lab­o­rate, and cre­ate.” Ni­cole, as primed as she is for the lime­light, still has but­ter­flies in her stom­ach. She em­braces the anx­i­ety that con­sumes a per­former be­fore go­ing on­stage. It’s a nec­es­sary evil that keeps her ready, the provo­ca­tion she needs to be in her el­e­ment. “I don’t care if there are two peo­ple or 20,000 peo­ple in the au­di­ence—i’m a ner­vous wreck be­fore any show,” she ad­mits. “I’ll prob­a­bly be pac­ing back and forth in some dark hall­way near the stage, try­ing to psy­che my­self out. If it gets re­ally bad, I’ll have a beer or whiskey just to calm my nerves.”

Mind you, this is com­ing from some­one who grew up in the public eye. This time, how­ever, things are a tad dif­fer­ent. There are no more fel­low thes­pi­ans or band­mates or fa­mous rel­a­tives to share the spot­light with. This is why there’s no blam­ing Ni­cole for want­ing to take her sweet time. She’s about to crack the sur­face, start­ing with this

FHM cover. “Af­ter the first song, okay na ako. Af­ter the per­for­mance, I’m just hun­gry and in the mood for a beer and some laughs. You’ll prob­a­bly see me hang out with my band­mates and un­wind. Laugh for an hour or two. And then I go home.”

Of course, not all those who choose to ven­ture out on their own are met with en­thu­si­asm. A breakup doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily lead to a break­out. Ni­cole has no prob­lem talk­ing about her de­ci­sion to pur­sue a solo ca­reer, ex­cept she can’t say for sure if that was a de­ci­sion she made in the first place.

“I do feel like it was time but that didn’t make it any eas­ier be­cause I didn’t know how to be a solo artist,” she ex­plains. “I like be­ing in a band. I do miss the girls. Be­ing on the road, trav­el­ing to­gether, get­ting to know each other so well that it hurts. I’m still in touch with a few of my Gen­eral Luna band­mates. Bea [Lao], the drum­mer, is my best friend to this day,” Ni­cole says.

She adds: “The truth is, I’m more used to work­ing in a group, be­cause I write col­lab­o­ra­tively. Even if I am a solo artist by def­i­ni­tion, yung galaw ko, pang-banda pa rin. That’s how I like to cre­ate. Right now, I work with ses­sion mu­si­cians. They’re all amaz­ing—i have an al­ls­tar lineup [Ira Cruz on gui­tars; Karel Honasan on bass; Michael Alba, Otep Con­cep­cion, Lawrence Nolan on drums; Nikko Rivera and Kim Lopez on key­board, and Gue­varra Isla An­tinero and Lester So­rilla on horns]. It’s nice be­cause it keeps me on my toes. It forces me to adapt to their skills and mu­sic and gain and lose a lit­tle bit of my­self in do­ing so.”

Here’s the thing per­haps only Ni­cole has yet to see at this point: that rare hu­mil­ity, along with her creative mind and mu­si­cal pedi­gree, is the rea­son why her ca­reer con­tin­ues to flour­ish sans Gen­eral Luna. She was al­ways go­ing to make it. It was al­ways go­ing to be her. The rock gods were al­ways go­ing to be by her side. And stand­ing be­side them are the gods of jazz and clas­si­cal mu­sic.

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